By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Writer
On Sept. 29, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission awarded $260,000 in grants for five different projects in Montgomery County communities. The grants are mostly being used to develop connectivity within these communities.
Karen Cilurso, manager of community revitalization for the DVRPC, said that 41 applications were submitted in Pennsylvania. Of those submissions, projects in Whitemarsh, Conshohocken, Upper Merion, Abington and Lower Moreland were chosen as well as a large-scale walkability plan for Montgomery County.
“We look for projects that will improve current transportation access and implement the goals of our long-term plan: Connections 2040,” Cilurso said.
The goal of this plan is to create a more sustainable future for the county by increasing mobility options for citizens. Cilurso said the criteria for these awards were based on regional impact, as in importance beyond the local municipality, and “community capacity and willingness to get started.”
Of these five plans, two were given to local municipalities. Lower Moreland Township was given $20,000 to develop a streetscape plan for the downtown historic Bethayres area along Huntingdon Pike from the Bethayres SEPTA station through to Buck Road, where Bryn Athyn begins. Abington Township was awarded $60,000 to implement a master bicycle plan that will include new bike lanes, shared lanes, trails and paths throughout the community.
“We want to create a walkable business community, fashioned like Doylestown or Ambler,” Loreen Guertin, assistant township manager for Lower Moreland, said. “It will help our business community out by creating a more attractive streetscape fixture.”
The vision allows for more multi-modal means of transportation, with a primary focus on walking. As it stands now, Guertin said that traffic congestion and lack of sidewalks throughout the township make it difficult for citizens to commute many places safely on foot.
The area of focus is downtown Bethayres. The plan, which is only in its primary stages, ideally would include sidewalks along Huntingdon Pike so pedestrians could easily access the Bethayres SEPTA station and local business. There would also be rain gardens planted to relieve some storm water and curb bump-outs to provide street parking.
It’s important to note that the grant allows only for a plan to be composed, and though this will take some time, other grants for the actual construction would need to be awarded to the township after the plans are finalized. Guertin is hopeful that most of the planning process will be completed by spring.
“This grant funds preliminary design elements and conceptual work,” she said. “It’s the first step in the right direction toward bringing our streetscape plan to realization.”
In Abington, the master bicycle plan would be in addition to strides already made to create more bike-friendly areas in the township.
“We want to make a link between the locations we already started and anything new we can create,” Michael Powers, Abington Township engineer, said.
Currently, some of the locations dead-end, but have been used by both walkers and cyclists, especially the one that runs through most of the township on Valley Road.
“We want to try to link those together along with a couple of our main roads like Easton Road and the Fairway and Jenkintown Road,” Powers said. “The idea is to get people to start thinking about using bikes more often and shore up routes from points in the township.”
Traffic congestion is also a problem for Abington, but Powers said that this implementation probably wouldn’t affect rush-hour traffic for car commuters heading to and from Philadelphia. Rather, it would provide an alternative means of transportation for people getting through the township and beyond. Ideally, he said, other neighboring townships, like Lower Moreland and Jenkintown, would follow Abington’s initiative and continue the lanes.
Both of these plans are still in their infancy and are not slated to be completed in the immediate future. The funding was granted to hire engineers and explore some options in regard to planning.
“You don’t know what needs to be built unless you study it,” Cilurso said. “There’s lots of sources for construction, but not many for planning. A lot of times, this is funding that communities cannot get.”